- By Elizabeth DickinsonElizabeth Dickinson is a Gulf-based American journalist and former assistant managing editor at Foreign Policy.
A year after an earthquake shook the small island-nation of Haiti, a mere 5 percent of the rubble has been cleared. Not even half of the donor money pledged has arrived. The government has failed to show leadership, and international NGOs are not helping — circumventing the Haitian authorities to write their own rules. Perhaps most biting, the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC) chaired by Bill Clinton and Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive has so far "failed" to deliver its mandate for reconstruction, plagued instead by "contradictory policies and priorities."
These are the findings of a new report released today by the British-based charity Oxfam International. It’s a damning read out on the last year of reconstruction — or as the paper makes clear, lack thereof. While the emergency response is lauded for saving millions of people with vital supplies, services, and shelters, "neither the Haitian state nor the international community is making significant progress in reconstruction."
What went wrong? The report paints a picture of an international effort entirely divorced from the needs and wishes of the Haitian people — not to mention the Haitian government. The original Action Plan meant to be put into place by the IHRC was favored by a mere 17.5 percent of Haitians, according to an Oxfam poll cited in the report. In implementation, the commission failed to include government ministers, for example consulting them in a tardy fashion — and providing documents for review often only in English (the Haitian government operates in French). Individual NGOs and aid organizations actually carrying out the relief effort have done no better. "Many aid agencies continue to bypass local and national authorities in the delivery of assistanc," the report claims.
Ok, so the international community has been ignoring the Haitian government and just plowing ahead according to their own plan. Maybe that sounds like a good idea — indeed, the government lacks much of the capacity to run the country’s services and infrastructure today. It’s incredibly tempting as an aid operation to want to cut corners, forget to do a bit of paperwork, or just fail to consult the local government — so that your program can start helping people a few days or hours sooner. But the fact that Haiti’s government is seen as inept is precisely the point. The Haitian authorities will never have that capacity to run Haiti if the international community cuts them out. So unless the international community plans on staying and running Haiti forever (something that Haitians would never — and should never — stand for), this is a disaster of an approach.
Ironically, these are the very same principles that the IHRC itself recognizes and has nominally committed to. One of its founding precepts was to empower Haitian authorities and help build up expertise in the local ministries. But like rebuilding a country, it seems this is easier said than done.
Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.
A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.
Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C.| The Cable |
Colum Lynch is Foreign Policy's award-winning U.N.-based senior diplomatic reporter. Lynch previously wrote Foreign Policy's Turtle Bay blog, for which he was awarded the 2011 National Magazine Award for best reporting in digital media. He is also a recipient of the 2013 Elizabeth Neuffer Memorial Silver Prize for his coverage of the United Nations.
Before moving to Foreign Policy, Lynch reported on diplomacy and national security for the Washington Post for more than a decade. As the Washington Post's United Nations reporter, Lynch had been involved in the paper's diplomatic coverage of crises in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan, and Somalia, as well as the nuclear standoffs with Iran and North Korea. He also played a key part in the Post's diplomatic reporting on the Iraq war, the International Criminal Court, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and U.S. counterterrorism strategy. Lynch's enterprise reporting has explored the underside of international diplomacy. His investigations have uncovered a U.S. spying operation in Iraq, Dick Cheney's former company's financial links to Saddam Hussein, and documented numerous sexual misconduct and corruption scandals.
Lynch has appeared frequently on the Lehrer News Hour, MSNBC, NPR radio, and the BBC. He has also moderated public discussions on foreign policy, including interviews with Susan E. Rice, the U.S. National Security Advisor, Gerard Araud, France's U.N. ambassador, and other senior diplomatic leaders.
Born in Los Angeles, California, Lynch received a bachelor's degree from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1985 and a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism in 1987. He previously worked for the Boston Globe.| Turtle Bay |